The New England Revolution will be without star midfielder Shalrie Joseph on Sunday.
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Scouting Report: Last place Revolution without Joseph

When the Union travel to Gillette Stadium on Sunday (7:00pm, Comcast SportsNet), they'll face a New England side that hasn't won a single game in more than two months.

You'd have to go all the way back to May 14 to find that last win, a 1-0 home victory over the equally struggling Vancouver Whitecaps.

It's been a very rough few seasons for Revs boss Steve Nicol, who's been at the helm since 2002. He's considered to be one of the best coaches in MLS history, but his side is struggling with cohesion, finishing, and injuries.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, haven't lost to an Eastern Conference team this season. The Union won 2-1 at New England last year, and drew 1-1 at PPL Park.

Sputtering Offense

The Revs' struggles can largely be attributed to their lack of finishing. With just 16 goals scored, they are dead last in offensive production in MLS.

The problem is highlighted by the fact that captain Shalrie Joseph leads the team in scoring. Joseph is a perennial all-star in Major League Soccer, and has contributed so much to New England in his eight years with the team. 

But he's not a goal scorer. He never really was, and he's not expected to be the club's primary scoring threat. Joseph's five goals lead New England this year, but he's a two-way midfielder, known for his ability to control the game in the center of the pitch.

It's not going to matter on Sunday, because Joseph won't play. He's sitting out this game due to yellow card accumulation. Defender Ryan Cochrane is also suspended.

That means the Revs will rely even more on their second-leading goal scorer, Rajko Lekic. The 30-year-old has three goals through 13 games this year, though critics say that number could and should be higher. Lekic has the experience and the ability to contribute more.

The Revs most recent league game was a wild 3-3 draw at Real Salt Lake. Nicol decided to go with a 4-5-1 formation that night, using Lekic as a lone striker. In fact, Nicol has largely avoided the 4-4-2 this year. It's a shape that usually appears later in the game, when the Revs need to push numbers forward and get more chances on goal.

U.S. international Benny Feilhaber, whom the Union passed on acquiring, lined up in his typical attacking midfielder role at Rio Tinto Stadium. He leads the team with three assists this year, but has struggled to significantly influence the run of play since returning stateside. Joseph paired Pat Phelan behind Feilhaber, while Chris Tierney and Sainey Nyassi started on the left and right, respectively.

It was a similar lineup in Wednesday's mid-week match against Manchester United. We won't put much stock in that friendly game, but the 4-5-1 was again used, with only minor changes from the RSL game. Nicol came out against the Red Devils with Zak Boggs in the midfield, moving Tierney to left back. The rest of the midfield and attack was unchanged.

The Revs' main issue on Sunday is replacing Joseph in the central midfield. 22-year-old Steven McCarthy, who has appeared 13 times this year, is a strong candidate to get the call.

Defensive Questions

The Revs backline has been more respectable than their midfield and attack this season. They've given up 24 goals, much fewer than the other bottom-dwelling teams in the league.

With Cochrane out, Nicol could turn to Franco Coria to fill one of his center back spots. The young Argentine was given a start in the friendly against Manchester United.

Rookie A.J. Soares has started all 17 games in the other center back position, so far tallying 1,514 minutes in his first year in MLS. He's made rookie mistakes, but has shown positive progress as well.

2010 All-Star Kevin Alston is perhaps the surest bet on this New England squad. He's held down the right back position since joining the club three years ago. Alston has started every game this season and has played the most minutes for the Revs in 2011.

24-year-old Darius Barnes should get the nod at left fullback; he's started there in the club's last two league games. Nicol could also move Tierney back to defense, as he did recently. Didier Domi was an option earlier in the year, but the team parted ways with the veteran last week. The Revs boss also has the option of moving one of his fullbacks to central defense, but that doesn't seem likely at this point. 

It's been a busy year for Matt Reis in net. Reis — who has been with New England forever and struggled through those disappointing MLS Cup runner-up finishes  has faced 88 shots. That's second in the league to Toronto's Stefan Frei, who has had the unenviable task of facing 113 shots this year. Reis has the second best save percentage in the league, and has kept the Revolution in a lot of games this year.

Related:

Union refuse to underestimate struggling Revs

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